United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
ORDER AND MEMORANDUM OPINION
V. S. Granade, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment and brief in support (Docs. 37, 38, 39),
Plaintiff's Response (Doc. 43) and Defendant's Reply
(Docs. 48, 49). For the reasons detailed below, the motion is
due to be granted.
Kelvin Patterson (“Patterson”), an
African-American male, first began working at the Baldwin
County, Alabama Sheriff's Office in February 1995 as a
deputy. (Doc. 44-1, ¶ 3). In November 2004, he received
a promotion to the rank of corporal. Id. In the
intervening thirteen or so years, Patterson has worked on
patrol, in support services in the civil division, and in
“intel.” (Doc. 39-1, p. 4). The Mobile County
Sheriff's Office conducts annual service ratings reports
for its officers. The officer receives a ranking from (1) to
(4) at the following levels: (1) exceptional job performance,
(2) high quality job performance, (3) satisfactory job
performance, or (4) unsatisfactory job performance. (See,
e.g., Doc. 39-1, p. 24). In November 2014, Patterson
received a rating of “(3) satisfactory job
performance” from his supervisor. Id.
Patterson received verbal coaching on improving his
decision-making skills. Id. at p. 9. Patterson
received the same rating in both November 2013 and 2015.
Id. at pp. 10, 23.
complaint, Patterson alleges he was passed over for a
promotion to sergeant between December 2015 and February 2017
based on race discrimination and in retaliation for his
protected activity. (See generally Docs. 1, 18).
2014, Lieutenant Chris Evans, a Caucasian male, became
Patterson's line supervisor. (Doc. 1, p. 5). Patterson
alleges Lt. Evans harassed him by singling him out, due to
his race, over the course of his assignment in his unit.
(See generally Doc. 1; Doc. 18; Doc. 23). In August
2015, Lt. Evans initiated an internal reprimand against
Patterson for “failure to follow orders.”
(See Doc. 39-1, p. 29). The events leading up to
this internal disciplinary action concerned a crime report
from August 15, 2015, in which Lt. Evans ordered Patterson
“to send a couple of cars [to the scene]” and to
take necessary action of issuing warrant slips and/or
arresting the individuals in question. (Doc. 39-5, p. 3).
Patterson did not send the units to respond as directed and
admitted he “‘failed to follow the crime report
properly.'” Id. Lt. Evans thus concluded:
By his own admission, I find that Corporal Kelvin Patterson
failed to follow policy for the Crime Reports by not sending
units to check on the situation and by failing to report back
via email on the findings.
By his own admission, I also find Corporal Patterson failed
to follow my verbal direct order to send units to the address
and assess the situation.
Id. at p. 4. Lt. Evans recommended Patterson
“receive a ‘Counseling Statement' for failure
to follow policy and verbal orders.” Id.
Captain Frank Cassidy initially concurred in the
recommendation, but upon Chief Deputy David Wilhelm's
inquiry as to “Patterson's reason(s) for his
failure to obey a direct order, ” Cpt. Cassidy obtained
an updated report from Lt. Evans. Id. at pp. 3, 6).
After the updated report, Cpt. Cassidy concurred with the
findings but recommended Patterson receive a
“LOR” or Letter of Reprimand, a more severe
disciplinary action. Id. at p. 4. On September 14,
2015, Defendant Sheriff Sam Cochran issued a letter to
Patterson to “serve as an official reprimand for your
actions on August 15, 2015 as it related to your failure to
follow orders given by Lieutenant Chris Evans.” (Doc.
39-1, p. 29). Patterson received notice of the LOR on
September 21, 2015. Id. at p. 30.
August 26, 2016, Patterson received a second LOR for
“attempting to serve a warrant that was no longer
active.” (Doc. 39-5, p. 10). Lieutenant Roderick Bonner
submitted the initial write-up of the offense, and Sheriff
Cochran concurred in Lt. Bonner's recommendation for a
LOR. Id. at p. 15. Patterson fully admitted he
“did not verify if [the warrant] was still active- [he]
only assumed it still was.” Id. at p. 19.
Patterson's Internal Grievance
September 21, 2015, Patterson filed an internal grievance
against Lt. Evans to Cpt. Cassidy. (Doc. 39-1, p. 28). He
claimed Lt. Evans “has continually called me into his
office for minimal offenses at the worst and made this a
hostile work environment for me.” Id. He
further stated, “Lt. Evans is known to have issues with
black supervisors[.]” Id. He also alleged his
LOR from September 2015 was illegitimate: “Lt. Evans
pursued an insubordination reprimand on me which was totally
unfair because insubordination is a willful neglect of a
direct order which wasn't the case involving a crime
Cassidy conducted an investigation into Patterson's
claims that Lt. Evan's reprimand was racially motivated.
(Doc. 39-1, p. 11). Cpt. Cassidy spoke with both Patterson
and Lt. Evans, collected documentation, and removed Patterson
from Lt. Evans's direct supervision. Id. at pp.
11-13, 31. After the investigation, the Sheriff's Office
concluded “the complaint [was] unfounded” and
advised Patterson of his right to appeal to the Personnel
Board. Id. at p. 31. Patterson appealed, instead,
directly to Sheriff Cochran in a “face-to-face
meeting” in late October 2015. Id. at p. 14,
16. In that meeting, Patterson alleges Sheriff Cochran
assured him the September 2015 LOR would not “affect
any promotional opportunity” in the Sheriff's
Office. Id. at p. 15.
Patterson's EEOC Filings
receiving the Sheriff's Office's decision on his
internal grievance against Lt. Evans, Patterson filed an EEOC
charge of discrimination (no. 425-2015-01185) on October 1,
2015. (Doc. 39-1, p. 33). In the charge, he
alleged he received the LOR “because [he is]
Black.” Id. After not receiving a promotion to
sergeant, see infra, Patterson filed a second EEOC
charge (no. 425-2016-00216) alleging retaliation for his
first EEOC charge. (Doc. 39-4, p. 2).
EEOC issued a Dismissal and Notice of Rights to the first
charge on October 16, 2015. (Doc. 1, p. 12). Patterson filed
his initial complaint on January 12, 2016, within the
ninety-day deadline. (Doc. 1). Patterson alleges the second
charge was also dismissed. (Doc. 18, ¶ 10).